25. Always choose federal student loans over private loans. Federal loans have flexible terms of payment if your employment dreams don’t exactly go according to plan after college. Plus, federal loans typically have better interest rates. So be smart about the loans you take out—and try to avoid these other big student loan mistakes.
26. If you’re struggling with federal student loan payments, investigate repayment options. Just call up your lender and ask whether they offer graduated, extended or income-based plans. Read more about these options here.
27. Opt for mortgage payments below 28% of your monthly income. That’s a general rule of thumb when you’re trying to figure out how much house you can afford. Learn more about this number here. And then indulge in some voyeurism and see what other couples can afford.
How to … Shop Smart
28. Evaluate purchases by cost per use. It may seem more financially responsible to buy a trendy $5 shirt than a basic $30 shirt—but only if you ignore the quality factor! When deciding if the latest tech toy, kitchen gadget or apparel item is worth it, factor in how many times you’ll use it or wear it. See some examples. For that matter, you can even consider cost per hour for experiences!
29. Spend money on experiences instead of things. Putting your money toward purchases like a concert or a picnic in the park—instead of spending it on pricey material objects—gives you more happiness for your buck. The research says so.
30. Shop solo. Ever have a friend declare, “That’s so cute on you! You have to get it!” for everything you try on? Save your socializing for a walk in the park, instead of a stroll through the mall, and treat shopping with serious attention. And read on for four other tips for avoiding contagious bad money behaviors.
31. Spend on the real you—not the imaginary you. It’s easy to fall into the trap of buying for the person you want to be: chef, professional stylist, triathlete. So follow these six steps to stop overspending for your fantasy life.
32. Ditch the overdraft protection. It sounds nice, but it’s actually a way for banks to tempt you to overspend, and then charge a fee for the privilege. Find out more about overdraft protection and other banking mistakes to avoid.
How to … Save Right for Retirement
33. Start saving ASAP. Not next week. Not when you get a raise. Not next year. Today. Because money you put in your retirement fund now will have more time to grow through the power of compound growth.